Greene offers a summary of trends in the digital market during 2008 and makes some predictions about what the industry can expect in 2009.
By Tim Greene
As part of these projections, we consider a set of what I call risk factors, or developments that could significantly disrupt the market. These risk factors range from the overall economy and the cost of ink in the screen-printing and digital-imaging markets due to raw materials costs increases and the emergence of digital displays that are carving into the volume of billboards that get printed. There were many announcements from industry leaders in 2008 that the price of inks in the screen-printing and offset-printing markets would increase. On the digital side, I build in price declines on an annual basis, which is what we have typically seen as technology platforms develop and third-party ink suppliers offer inks that reduce the cost of digital printing. We’re already aware of several suppliers of wide-format printing systems that are launching lower priced inks for their platforms in 2009.
We’re also closely watching the growth of digital displays. Companies like Clear Channel and Lamar Advertising, the bellwethers of the outdoor advertising industry, indicate that digital-display revenues are growing while poster revenues were in decline in 2008.
It seems like the UK is kind of a hot-house anyway, but I’ve heard that in the UK, with print buyers pushing them for rock-bottom prices, the market for wide-format graphics has gotten so competitive that print providers are doing more of their work on their screen-printing equipment to achieve lower production costs. This has also created a large market for used digital imaging equipment.
In 2009 I expect to see more new specialty printing systems designed to appeal to specific applications. In 2007 and 2008, we saw new printers hit the market specifically for applications like ceramic and glass printing. These are enabled by inks that are highly adhesive and printheads that can jet those fluids effectively. Durst, GCC, Teckwin, and others launched application-specific printers in 2007 and 2008, and I think we’re going to see a lot more printers launched in 2009 that are designed for some of these rigid-substrate applications.
I’ve written in this column before that every segment of the screen-printing market (graphics, textiles, industrial, and specialty) seems to have some competition from digital printing and from inkjet in particular. I recently read about another inkjet-technology development—aerosol jetting—that very accurately jets drops of conductive fluids. These fluids are deposited in arrangements to create flat-panel displays, printed circuit boards, and RFID antennae. There are other inkjet initiatives in the deposition of these materials, but aerosol appears to have some inherent advantages in terms of dot-placement accuracy. Of course, piezoelectric inkjet drops are already extraordinarily small and placed incredibly accurately as well.
Finally, when people complain about a decision a company made or something a company did that is bad, like AIG or Lehman Bros., I try to remember that companies don’t do these things—for the better and for the worse, individual people run those companies and make those decisions. I think it is very important to try to remember that there are millions of other great individuals doing the exact opposite every day, dealing in good faith and honoring their commitments to employees, business partners, and clients. This is a great industry with an enormously high majority of the latter.
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The opinions and recommendations expressed in this column are Mr. Greene’s and not necessarily those of Screen Printing magazine.
Tim Greene has worked at InfoTrends (formerly known as CAP Ventures) since 1997 and has been the director of InfoTrends' Wide Format Printing Consulting Service since 2001. He is responsible for developing worldwide forecasts of the wide-format-printing market and conducting primary and secondary research. Greene holds a bachelor's degree in management from Northeastern University. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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